House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was labour.

Topics

7:25 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague 100%. We absolutely have to get the best aircraft for the best price for the Canadian men and women who will be put in harm's way for the next 30, 40 or 50 years. That is exactly what we are doing.

I want to thank him again for his question because it gives me a chance to clarify some of the misconceptions that have been put out there. The government is indeed committed to finding the best value for Canadian taxpayers' dollars in the case of our decision to purchase 65 F-35 Lightning II strike fighters. That is exactly what we are doing. We are following the most cost-effective option and it does follow Treasury Board guidelines. To say that it does not is just simply false.

Canada joined the multinational joint strike fighter partnership back in 1997 under the Liberals and conducted a competitive process to select what would become the JSF, the only fifth generation fighter aircraft available to Canada and the rest of the western world with the exception of the United States.

The whole point of the joint strike fighter program is to develop a cutting edge adaptable, sustainable, multi-role aircraft for the 21st century that permits full interoperability with our allies and friends, and benefits from economies of scale inherent in a project that foresees the production of nearly 5,000 aircraft over a 40-year span.

Indeed, experts from within the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces did conduct extensive evaluations of the leading fighter aircraft, analyzed data provided by industry, and through government-to-government channels, and undertook lengthy consultations with manufacturers.

Of course, someone will come before the defence committee to say that they can do that. However, they are not the ones making the decisions. The decisions and the advice needs to be taken from the experts who have extensive experience and expertise in this because they have no agenda other than to get the Canadian Forces the best aircraft possible at the best price.

The conclusion was that only the F-35 meets all the mandatory criteria in the statement of operational requirements and these experts then recommended to the government that it acquire the F-35 joint strike fighter. It is the government's confidence in the expertise and experience of these military and civilian officials and their recommendations that has led to its choice of a procurement process.

To hold a second competitive process to select Canada's next generation fighter, as critics have called for, would waste time and money, and needlessly delay the replacement of our aging fleet of CF-18s, which will reach the end of their service life by 2020.

However, more fundamentally, such a competition would be a farce as we cannot hold a competition when there is only one viable competitor. To persist in holding such a lopsided competition would be to select the very aircraft that we already know is the only one that meets the air force's requirements. We would lose our place in the production schedule and to lose out on the lucrative economic opportunities for Canadian industry contained within the industrial participation plans signed among the JSF partner nations and Lockheed Martin.

Purchasing the F-35 through a competitive bidding process with an attached industrial regional benefits package, as the opposition has been demanding, would mean purchasing the aircraft outside the joint strike fighter memorandum of understanding that Canada signed onto in 2006. We get special privileges inside that MOU, not the least of which allows us to purchase the F-35 without having to pay foreign military sales fees or research and development recoupment costs that are built into the price for non-partner nations, such as Israel. These cost waivers amount to savings of $850 million to $900 million off the purchase price of our 65 aircraft.

Not only that, but those industrial participation plans that permit Canadian companies to bid on contracts for the full F-35 global supply chain would be immediately suspended with a decision to hold a competition as these plans are conditional on Canada purchasing the F-35 through the MOU.

Canada's world-class aerospace companies have already won $350 million in contracts. That is even before full production has begun. Based on this success, estimates suggest that Canadian companies could win up to $12 billion in contracts for production, sustainment, and follow-on development of the F-35 over the 40-year duration of the project.

The Canadian industry rightly sees the long-term benefits of this novel procurement process. By participating in such huge international projects, the government can help to stimulate and strengthen Canadian aerospace and defence companies to bid on and win major contracts worldwide.

The choice facing this government in this process is a no-brainer: proceed with the purchase under the best process--

7:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I must interrupt the hon. member.

The hon. member for Richmond Hill.

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, the member talks about misconceptions; I talk about ill-conceived.

Here we have a situation where we do not have transparency or accountability for the Canadian taxpayer. We do not even know how much per aircraft this will cost because again the meter is running. It is costing more and more every day. This has certainly been seen in the United States. I would think that it is prudent for us to take a close look at this again.

The member indicates that people, of course, will come to the committee and say that they can sell us whatever it is and not to worry. The reality is that I do not think that some of the major firms that came before us would have said that they can do what it is we are looking for if, in fact, they could not deliver. They made it very clear that they can.

Obviously, Lockheed Martin has sold the government a nice bill of goods. It said there is no problem at all, but by the way do not worry about the cost as it goes up. As I have said, from $50 million per unit now we are up to about $92 million, and again it continues.

In a deficit situation, we need openness, transparency, and the government has not shown that in this case.

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is not telling the truth about the price of the airplane. He is taking U.S. costs for U.S. aircraft. He is not talking about our program.

We are not writing a cheque for $16 billion tomorrow. We are spreading the $9 billion cost of the aircraft over seven years, a cost that includes simulators, infrastructure, training, and so on, a lot of which comes back to Canadian industry. Starting in 2015, the sustainment cost of the airplane will be spread over 20 years. We are not writing a cheque for $16 billion tomorrow: this is spread out over a very long period of time.

The simple fact is that we have had 10 highly advanced countries look at the same challenge and every single one has come up with the same answer: the F-35. That is not a coincidence.

We have experts here whom we should trust. These are the people with no agenda. Every company has an agenda. That is a given, and somebody will come to us and say they can do whatever. Of course they are going to say that. That is why we hire people with the expertise and the experience to give us the advice and the answer.

Back in the CF-18 days, the program I was involved in, we had the same people saying the same kinds of things. At least in those days the Liberals came to their senses and supported the program. I wish the Liberals today had the same common sense.

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise in the House, as there is an impending issue in regard to my question for the Minister of the Environment.

We have a new minister now, but this has been a recurring issue, at least for me, since 2004. For the people who reside around Terra Nova National Park, it has been an issue going back decades, even half a century.

I do want to follow-up on my question some time ago about Highway 301 and Highway 310. I will get to that shortly, but right now as we speak, there is an issue that is brewing in the park that we need to discuss. I hope the minister is available to provide some answers on that and to get some input.

I have always thought of the town of Charlottetown, which exists around Terra Nova National Park, as the town that is pinned in by the park and its rules and regulations. Now I am biased and think that the Terra Nova National Park has some of the greatest scenery in the world, but for many of the residents who live near this park, what some would consider a right or freedom has been quashed.

Time and time again the government has said “no we cannot”. It would seem that every time I write a letter or approach the ministry, I get stonewalled on this issue. It just does not want to get involved at all, which brings us to February 13.

On February 13, residents of the town of Charlottetown will stage a protest. Here is what they want, and I think they are right in demanding it.

Snowmobiling now is an incredibly large activity within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is an economic generator, as well as a right for everybody to go among the trails. However, the people of Charlottetown cannot traverse the park at all to get to the main trailway that we have invested millions of dollars in grooming and in upkeep for the residents and tourists. They are not asking for free-for-all snowmobiling throughout the whole park; they are asking for an access route to the main trailway. It is an access route to get the people of this town among the general population out for snowmobiling. This is not a lot to ask. It is a trail that they know themselves; they have mapped it out.

This coming weekend they are going to make a strong statement to say that they feel they are not being listened to, and they are not. They should be given attention and should be given a fair hearing.

Also, residents within this area, not just of Charlottetown but also of the Eastport Peninsula and the town of Terra Nova, would like to have some pavement, but I will get to that a little later.

On the snowmobiling issue, there are other privileges, rights really, that other people throughout the province enjoy that they cannot enjoy because of where they are.

Let us keep in mind who came along first. Was it the park? No, the people and their ancestors did. Their ancestors, dating back many generations, have invested in this area. It was where they brought up their children and now where their great-great-great-grandchildren are growing up.

The park came in and imposed restrictions that I believe are unfair. Again, they are not asking to snowmobile throughout the park as some sort of free-for-all recreational activity. Rather, these people are asking for an access route.

Would the minister please rise and help us address this important issue for the people of Charlottetown?

7:35 p.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I want to remind the member the late night proceedings are supposed to relate to the question that he asked regarding the devastation from Hurricane Igor to Terra Nova National Park. I spoke to him, one-on-one, and explained the status of the road construction.

I was told that the question tonight related to the road construction in the park and the status report on that. Now the member is asking about snowmobile access. If he had given me fair notice, I would have been glad to speak to that, but that is not the case.

I will answer the question based on what I was told. It is in response to the status on the park.

Parks Canada is committed to ensuring that parks' roads are maintained and safe. Parks Canada's first priority is the safety of visitors, local residents, and the travelling public. Road maintenance is conducted regularly through the year on all through highways and roads in Terra Nova National Park, in accordance with the national Parks Canada standards.

Parks Canada recognizes the importance of roads in the parks to local residents and visitors alike. Emergency interim repairs to the roads in Terra Nova National Park were immediately implemented after Hurricane Igor. Permanent repairs to Highway 301, Highway 310 and the Trans-Canada Highway in the park were completed on schedule in November 2010.

Hurricane Igor swept across Newfoundland and Labrador on September 21, 2010, destroying bridges, flooding roads and homes, knocking out power lines, and leaving dozens of communities isolated and in a state of emergency. Many roads and highways were closed, including parts of the Trans-Canada Highway and most of the Burin Peninsula regional highways.

The member knows that the work was done quickly.

If the member would like to talk about snowmobile access, I would be glad to talk to him about that, but he has to give fair notice so we can be prepared. I look forward to talking to him more on that.

I also want to remind him that for 13 long years the Liberals had opportunities to deal with snowmobile access, to deal with the issues that are important to him. It took this Conservative government to get it done. That is always what happens. We keep our promises and we get things done.

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Get what done exactly, Madam Speaker?

I will tell members what the Conservatives have done. There was an announcement made last year, a big grandiose announcement that the highways in national parks out west had been twinned. I believe Jasper was the park. They twinned the highways. Good for them.

I would be happy with just some asphalt to the town of Terra Nova. This is a capital construction project that is necessary for these communities.

I will leave the snowmobiling issue. But by the way, he mentioned that this snowmobiling issue is a new thing. I have been writing letters since 2006.

If the parliamentary secretary wants to talk about highways, it is a situation where we are only asking for about 10 kilometres of road on both Highway 301 and Highway 310, from the Eastport Peninsula to Terra Nova.

The repairs that were done were expedient and I congratulate the local staff and management who worked on that. We now need some capital money so that we can take a look at these roads. There are people travelling to school every day. People who are sick have to travel the road and it is becoming a mess--

7:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. parliamentary secretary.

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member congratulating the staff at Parks Canada because they work around the clock to ensure public safety. They did a terrific job and he is absolutely right.

However, for him to say in the House that he has been writing letters since 2006 when he became a member of the official opposition, what about since 2004, when he was first elected? He did not get it done. Maybe the Liberal Party did not care enough about that area, but this government cares about the environment and getting things done.

7:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:41 p.m.)